Focus on Employee Mental Health — Everything Else is Secondary
“An emphasis on mental health, especially in the wake of a global pandemic, is likely to be the driving force of success for companies this decade. This starts with empathy at the executive level. CEOs, CTOs, and other executives need to accept that optimizing wellbeing is part of an employers’ responsibility.”
In this article, Malika dives into the changing expectations of the new generation of workers, the responsibilities of employers in the mental health space, and what it takes to create a caring company culture.
Learn the following, based on Malika’s experience both as the CEO/Founder of Kingmakers and years of our work with leaders across industries:
How did the pandemic impact how we think about mental health at work?
How can a leader be proactive in culture development?
When should you not ask for the opinions of your employees?
What is wrong with a “work is family” mentality?
What is the value of play in the workplace?
Read the article below!
Women Thriving in Business, Hosted by Nikki Rogers
Episode 502: Culture of Success – Focus on Your Team | Malika Jacobs
- “Different companies have different cultures and that is fine. And hopefully, you attract the people that best resonate with your company culture.” – Malika Jacobs
From Women Thriving in Business:
“A company’s success is often in the hands of its leader. And to be a successful and effective one, you must first learn to value your team, their skills, and opinions.
There are different types of leaders and employees but for sure, each one of them has the same goal: To succeed. Despite the fact that leaders must learn how to lead, leading from behind can also be a great strategy to gain the trust of your employees and allow them to bloom on their own as individuals. By learning to embrace change, you can welcome growth.
Having teamwork allows the company to build trust, enhance relationships, improve morale, foster creativity in the workplace – yes even virtually!
In this episode, we are joined by Malika Jacobs, founder, and CEO of Kingmakers, a company that offers virtual, board game-centered experiences through their Team and Enterprise Solutions. Malika shares with us the story of how Kingmakers started, the vision of the company, the challenges they faced, and how they were able to adapt and evolve during the pandemic.
Malika discusses the importance of building a team that supports a vibrant and supportive company culture, her W.A.T.E.R. framework for employee engagement, and so much more.”
Your people are your biggest cost but they’re also your biggest investment. – Malika Jacobs
You can’t build that company culture overnight. Like that’s not going to be there when the whole world shifts and you have to figure it out. – Malika Jacobs
As leaders, every moment counts, and it’s not the big grand gestures, it’s really how do you act day by day, moment by moment and that builds trust. – Nikki Rogers
You might not have a megaphone, but you do have a platform. – Nikki Rogers
Often businesses don’t give themselves the advantage of hiring the best. – Nikki Rogers
About the Podcast: Women Thriving in Business, hosted by Nikki Rogers
Women Thriving in Business features candid unscripted conversations with entrepreneurs, business experts, authors, and academics aimed at contributing to business success. This weekly show provides interviews with business leaders who have built, grown, and are thriving in business. Nikki A. Rogers, host of the show, also discusses achievements, lessons learned, and advice for aspiring business owners to develop the mindset, strategies, and connections necessary to thrive in business. Whether you are just starting or you have been in business for decades, WTiB offers inspiration, strategies, and resources to help you THRIVE in business.
Connect with Nikki Rogers:
Have you ever been told “we’re really a family here” in a work environment? While your company may have been trying to communicate a culture of care, that phrase could also be a red flag.
At Kingmakers, we are conscious to not refer to ourselves as family.
A culture of “work is family” adds a level of emotional responsibility for employees that contributes to the power imbalance of the workplace.
Whether healthy or not, language regarding family often elicits an emotional response, the expectation to be present, caring and support no matter the circumstances, and a promise of commitment forever. This language creates an emotional responsibility for employees well beyond the transactional role they’ve accepted.
“If I am being asked to show up at work like I would for my family or if I ask my work to take the place of my family, I would disappoint or be disappointed by either scenario.” – Jessica Strauss, Kingmakers Director of Innovation and Experience
Does this mean that we don’t care about Kingmakers and our coworkers? Absolutely not! What it does mean is that we understand that day to day, we shouldn’t expect individuals to sacrifice their personal wellbeing to solve structural problems.
When we drop the ball as a business and see holes, the response we strive for is to see where our policies, culture, and job roles need to adjust to better handle situations in the future. If we took a “it’s all in the family approach,” we might expect one another to just “pick up the slack,” missing a valuable opportunity to innovate, and risk burning out one of our own.
We also note that emotional fulfillment cannot (and should not) exclusively come from a job.
The complexity of relationships an individual needs cannot be fulfilled by only one environment. We exist in a multitude of communities that need our time, expertise, care, and whatever special skills each of us have to bring to the table for that particular place.
Investing all of our energy into caring about a work community would take away personal resources for connecting and finding meaning within other spheres: family, friends, local and, global community.
“Of course, there’s still room for meaningful connection with my teammates and for them to know me on a personal level. However, my work doesn’t need to solve for the nurturing that I need from family nor would it be healthy for me to provide nurture in a work setting.” – Jessica Strauss, Kingmakers Director of Innovation and Experience
We value the relationships that each of us have outside of Kingmakers. Approaching work with a macro context influenced by all of the aspects that make us whole allows us to professionally develop new and different perspectives that directs the ways in which we innovate. Grounding our identities in a multitude of sources and not solely the success of the business equips us to weather storms of all seasons of life.
“While I love the work we do, if I don’t have this job tomorrow, I will not lose all sense of myself. Because of this, I get to make clear decisions, take risks and innovate, and create without fear.” – Ash Gerlach, Kingmakers Director of Marketing and Operations
We’ve witnessed that our solid foundation of trust at Kingmakers is built on the reality that our relationships are clear and have boundaries.
We trust that everyone on the team has Kingmakers best interest at heart and is caring for their own wellness.
These professional guardrails permit us to have healthy conflict without fear! We don’t have to worry about additional subtext when brainsailing¹; our baseline is that we want to see Kingmakers succeed and that our encouraged conflict isn’t a reflection of personal disdain but of an exciting opportunity to embrace and approach work challenges.
If we don’t consider work to be family at Kingmakers, what do we mean by radical employee care?
Read about Kingmakers Team Culture here!
¹Brainsailing is brainstorming, but with whimsy. Does it mean anything different? No. Does it make us smile? Yes.
Read as Sangeetha Shankar talks about her experience working with Kingmakers’ Director of Innovation and Engagement, Jessica Strauss, to support training development.
As our most important client-facing role, facilitators set the tone for participant engagement, teach games clearly and effectively, facilitate best-fit energy for participants, provide technical support, and make decisions behind the scenes to ensure streamlined experiences. Facilitation is such a unique skill set thus the training process for our Game Guides is nuanced, detailed, and critical as Kingmakers continues to grow.
Sangeetha’s ability to reflect on the training experience, document the process, and apply it to the way we’ll train future facilitators is absolutely invaluable.
Yes! I completed the first phase of a wonderful consulting gig as a Training Developer with Kingmakers. So excited and grateful. 🙂
Kingmakers is a woman-owned diverse organization that offers team-building through the facilitation of online board games.
Last November, I saw an intriguing job post for a Virtual Facilitator for team building through online board games & thought “How interesting?”
As an alternate educator, the power of play through non-competitive games for kids & adults is not new to me. But play in a corporate space?
So I applied, chatted with the ever smiling Malika Jacobs, CEO & Founder & soon my curiosity turned into an enriching experience in team building & facilitation through play.
During my training as a Virtual Facilitator, I witnessed the intricacies of playing board games in an online space for a remote corporate team. It’s multidimensional & unpredictable. The facilitator is challenged to be dynamic, in the “here and now” while solely focusing on team bonding.
With its tech savvy Ash Gerlach, this small but mighty team has put its heart & soul to deliver a seamless online board game experience. The end result? Teams can let their guards down, have fun through play & bond.
The training for the facilitators is thorough, with a focus on facilitation, irrespective of the tech challenges a session might bring in.
Post-training, we felt my skills would be a better fit for behind the scenes, “Training Developer.”
Thus started my consulting gig where, I worked with the very talented, empathetic Jessica Strauss, Director of Innovation and Experience, to solidify the existing training program.
Timestamps, best practices & observations were documented, rummaged & discussed for hours from the “human” experience angle.
Working with Jessica, I can attest that Kingmakers is incredibly passionate about team facilitation. Every game is to enliven the human component of a team – empowering them to chat, express, collaborate & goof up while playing the carefully curated online board games.
As corporate employees, we often forget that we are humans first. What are our likes, dislikes, our quirkiness, our challenges? Can we play & let go, thus reviving the child within us and others? These explorations come alive during a Kingmakers’ team bonding session.
So what are you waiting for?
If you are looking to bring the “zing” in your teams, contact the bubbly Adilson Graca , Director of Sales and Client Success. He will guide you (with a riddle or two!) on how the Kingmakers’ team bonding sessions can enhance your organization – in team building or recruiting, in onboarding or having good old fun in a holiday party.
It’s PLAY TIME!
Happy Team Bonding!
Learn more about the Kingmakers Game Guides!
The Great Resignation & The Future Of Work: Malika Jacobs Of Kingmakers On How Employers and Employees Are Reworking Work Together
As a part of Authority Magazine’s interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” Malika Jacobs and Karen Mangia talk about the Great Resignation, employee care, and evolving expectations for what the future holds for work.
An Excerpt from the interview:
“What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?” – Karen Mangia
“My advice to employers who want to future-proof their organizations would be to accept that change is constant and to be open to new ideas. Super simple in concept but difficult to execute in real-life business. To meet a shifting marketplace, it requires constantly re-evaluating if you have the right product and people mix. While rare, sometimes the shifts can be so significant and sudden, like in 2020. In my opinion, what allowed Kingmakers to persevere in that time was having an open mindset, accepting that change brings new possibilities, and being willing to let an aged model go.
How do you build a culture that is open to new ideas? Kingmakers is a small team, but we can proudly say that we are diverse. Our diversity spans race, gender identity, age, generational perspectives, geography, and professional backgrounds. With diversity at our company’s core, it has allowed for enriching conversations in business strategy, ideation, and the development of company goals. Expanding from our example, I would advise other companies to focus on diversity at every level of your organization (for the quickest impact, focus on hiring diverse leadership!). Then, develop structural policies and a culture that allows people to feel comfortable sharing their ideas and speaking up.” – Mallika Jacobs
Read more here!
In an interview with Authority Magazine’s Karen Mangia, Founder and CEO of Kingmakers, Malika Jacobs, gives some insight into what she expects the future of work to look like.
“The Kingmakers team regularly talks about the future of work and what it means to be a tool in one subset of culture development in this broad, all-encompassing topic.
Due to the nature of our work, we’ve had the opportunity to hear about the experiences of hundreds of dedicated team leaders and engagement professionals. We’ve learned about what it means to work with people through this monumental time.
Like so many, leaders are also learning, shifting, and developing new practices to best care for employees in real-time as expectations quickly evolve.” – Malika
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
– Karen Mangia
1. Virtual Work (whether fully remote or hybrid) in the corporate sector is here to stay.
This trend will become more dominant because virtual work grants access to a global talent pool and compliments the employee preferences for flexible work.
2. Perks are not the same as employee care.
Employee care is an intentional combination of culture and policies that support employees’ pursuit of wellbeing both in and out of the workplace. Employees are now looking for a sense of belonging, the feeling of being valued, and flexibility for life outside of work.
3. Trust that your employees know what they need the most.
Micromanagement kills trust — from how employees fit work into their lives to how the work gets done. When you give people the freedom to make the right decisions around working location, hours, and process, you develop trust, increase productivity, open the door to innovation, and ultimately create a culture of care.
4. Company culture and values need to be demonstrated from the top.
Inclusivity, best practices, and core beliefs must be exercised, seen, and accounted for at the highest level of leadership for all levels of an organization to feel it. I often think that the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate speaks volumes about the company culture. Leaders will continue to be held accountable for setting the boundaries of desired and undesired behavior and practices at work.
5. Play will continue to be a powerful tool for team development.
Kingmakers has been privileged to see how board games can infuse play into the workplace in a meaningful way. Play allows us to see a different side of our colleagues. It fosters a sense of belonging by providing opportunities to gain familiarity and trust with one another. Plus, board games are a low-stakes, overall accessible, and often nostalgic way to participate in joy. Teams that play together work well together.
The Power of Play and How to Build Trust in Your Team
Into The Wild is a podcast by Renee Warren geared towards early-stage female entrepreneurs and those looking to grow their business including side hustlers, mom entrepreneurs, and day/dreamers.
Tune into Episode 102 ‘The Power of Play and How to Build Trust in Your Team’ to learn:
✨ How businesses are using the power of play to harness the limitless and unstoppable strength of joy and connection
✨ Why team bonding is so important to your business and what you could be missing if you don’t practice team bonding
✨ The best time to engage in team-bonding activities
Listen to an excerpt from the interview below.
How to be an effective facilitator
6 Tips from Kingmakers Game Guides
1. Find the balance between gameplay and team interaction.
“Leave space for people to simply chat and enjoy themselves. The game is a vehicle for enjoyment, not the centerpiece.” – Caleb
“Striking the delicate balance between moving the game experience along and disappearing into the moments of humor and joy requires equal parts art and skill. There is always a point where the room reaches synergy and people start to relax and joke and enjoy the space and my goal as a facilitator is to guide us to that point where the magic unfolds.” – Sarah
2. Remember everyone shows joy in different ways!
“There are many ways to facilitate joy for all.” – Sophie
“We shouldn’t expect one group’s ‘fun’ to look like another’s. There’s no need to judge how anyone experiences joy. Facilitators provide the experience and there is freedom of discovery for each group of participants.” – Caleb
3. Be fully present!
“Each event is a new and unique group of people, so anything can – and does – happen! The event is a special time and space that will never happen again in exactly the same way, so it’s an opportunity for discovery.” – Amie
4. Lean into the inside jokes.
“My favorite part about facilitating is where everybody starts to laugh, and the group finds an inside joke. It’s fun to have something that only one particular group will understand, it makes the memory really special.” – Caleb
5. Create a comfortable environment.
“It’s so important to create an environment in which individuals feel happy to participate. I see the cultivation of a warm atmosphere as being incredibly important for people to feel like they can take a risk and experience their own voice being heard in a way that is respectful.” – Amie
“I love watching participants open up and start to smile as the games go on. By the end people are laughing and new connections are formed among people who might not have met before.” – Sophie
6. Consider the bigger picture.
“I love that Kingmakers gets to curate laughter and play experiences which allow participants to let their humanity shine. These are moments that remind us we are more than what we do or produce, that our mere existence brings joy.” – Sarah
Meet our expert Game Guides!
Facilitators are the most important part of the Kingmakers team.
Kingmakers Game Guides set the tone for participant engagement, teach games clearly and effectively, facilitate best-fit energy for participants, provide technical support, and make decisions behind the scenes to ensure streamlined experiences.
The Game Guide is the humble teacher (sharing the rules), the fair judge (the keeper of points), the efficient board (physically controlling cards or pieces), the encouraging cheerleader (rooting for individual or group success), and ultimately, the nimble facilitator of the participant experience.
Why is this flexibility important?
Each team is incredibly unique!
While the game itself provides an initial structure, it’s the Game Guide who sets the pace and focus of the game and leads the participants through the experience that best fits them.
Our Game Guide Caleb put it best when he said, “The game is a vehicle for enjoyment, not the centerpiece.”
Our expert facilitators create the environment for participant connection, thoughtfully navigating a team’s dynamics, history, and hierarchy.
Some teams thrive in a competitive environment and want to move quickly through rounds, engaging with one another in a lively discussion with a specific and important goal. Other teams may play the same game slowly, sharing anecdotes and laughter in the middle of a round and being only mildly interested in the competition aspect. Both team personalities (and every other team dynamic that exists) are valid and lead to meaningful connections.
Looking for tips on how to be an effective facilitator? Read what our Game Guides have to say!
Meet the Kingmakers Facilitator Team! We are delighted to work with a talented cohort of facilitators who come to us with expertise in a diverse array of professional disciplines.
“Being part of the Kingmakers Facilitator cohort [is] such a pleasure! … [During training] the other facilitators were incredible to learn with and to learn from. I felt supported, challenged and encouraged all along the way.” – Amie
What is Facilitation?
Facilitation is the art and science of inviting participation while upholding thoughtful experience design. Expert, external facilitators create a space where colleagues can see one another in new ways without being bound by existing power and social dynamics during the Kingmakers experience.
As a collaborator in the arts, Amie acts, directs, develops new work, and provides opportunities for engagement. Using theatre, storytelling, role-play, and improvisation, she coaches individuals and conducts group workshops. Amie performs plays that facilitate conversations about social issues including bullying, dating violence, substance use, and prevention.
Amie cultivates a warm atmosphere in every Kingmakers event so participants feel like they can take a risk and experience their own voice being heard in a way that is respectful.
As a Kingmakers Facilitator:
“Each event is a new and unique group of people, so anything can – and does – happen! This keeps things fresh, but it also requires that we be fully present to the group. [Each] event is a special time and space that will never happen again in exactly the same way, so it’s an opportunity for discovery.”
Caleb is a web developer and is currently exploring game design from board game building to production. Working with Kingmakers is a natural progression of his experience in local arcades and hobby shops and his strength in bringing people together.
“My greatest strength as a facilitator is my ability to relax and be flexible… Everybody group has fun in different ways, and I enjoy fine-tuning a little bit to accommodate people’s enjoyment.”
As a Kingmakers Facilitator:
“When [facilitating] a game, it’s very important to leave space for the people to simply chat and enjoy themselves. The game is a vehicle for enjoyment, not the centerpiece. My favorite part [is when] everybody starts to laugh and the group finds an inside joke. It’s fun to have something that only one particular group will understand, it makes the memory really special.”
Kingmakers Facilitator and Training Developer
Lex is an artist, coach, and game enthusiast with a passion for storytelling and personal development. As a Career Specialist, Lex regularly helps people to clarify their calling and communicate who they are to the world. By guiding clients in exploring their values and dreaming big, they support individuals’ transition into internships, apprenticeships, and full-time work.
As a Kingmakers Facilitator, Lex loves that they get to combine their experience in teaching with their love of all things board games! In addition to using their talents as a Game Guide, Lex has supported Kingmakers in training development.
Sarah has 10 years of experience in youth development, youth philanthropy and youth organizing and attributes that to her discipline of listening. More recently, she has carried this skill into adult learning spaces. Sarah founded Brown Girl Go, a consultancy which supports Black and Brown women founders with event coordination, facilitation expertise, and strategic planning. You can follow along on Instagram with @browngirlgo.
Sarah prides herself as showing up fully and brilliantly as an invitation for others to do the same. “Personality is what flavors experience and I like to build interactive moments which allow folks to determine the seasoning level that works for them. While I do have some knowledge and expertise in a few areas, ultimately, I am a curator of the collective wisdom in a room.”
As a Kingmakers Facilitator:
“Striking the delicate balance between moving the game experience along and disappearing into the moments of humor and joy requires equal parts art and skill. There is always a point where the room reaches synergy and people start to relax and joke and enjoy the space and my goal as a facilitator is to guide us to that point where the magic unfolds.”
Sophie has a passion for Performing Arts and the cultural enrichment of the community. After spending eight years in the corporate banking world, Sophie returned to her theatre background in 2017 and runs ticketing and social media for the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco. She also sits as Board Vice President for her children’s co-op preschool.
Sophie is thrilled to be a Facilitator for Kingmakers where she can employ her passion for public speaking and connecting people. Her positive energy and warmth shine in every Kingmakers event.
“I love watching participants open up and start to smile as the games go on. By the end people are laughing and new connections are formed among people who might not have met before… I love that you never know where the conversation will go, but there is always guaranteed conversation and connection.”
You can stay connected with Sophie through her passion project “The San Francisco Mama.” Sophie created this blog in 2020 for anyone who identifies as a Mom in San Francisco. She’s excited to watch a community grow around it.
Kingmakers Facilitator and Events Manager
Val has supported Kingmakers in many roles since we opened our doors in 2014 and currently uses her unique combination of technical and people-oriented skills as Events Manager and Game Guide. She loves that since the beginning, the importance of play sits at the heart of Kingmakers.
Val’s favorite moment as a facilitator was from a team event that doubled as a surprise baby shower.
“Everyone wrote well wishes for her baby as answers to some of the game questions and someone on their team read her a poem he had written, that was so touching. It was just a wonderful moment of a team expressing how much love they had for each other and the new life that was going to be entering the world!”
Outside of Kingmakers, Val supports her local humane society through fundraising, reads an average of 30 books a year, and travels as much as she can.